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Work-related Fatality Rates Reveal Vulnerabilities

A total of 5,147 fatal work-related injuries were recorded in 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The fatal injury rate decreased to 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers from 3.6 in 2016.

The data indicate that preventable accidents occur despite regulatory standards, occupational health and safety training, and the use of personal protective equipment. For example:

  • Fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), accounting for 887 deaths (17 percent).
  • Fatalities involving confined spaces rose 15 percent to 166 in 2017.
  • Transportation-related incidents caused 2,077 deaths (40 percent).
  • Fatalities in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry increased 26 percent to 112 in 2017 from a low of 89 in 2016.

Among positive findings, private manufacturing and wholesale trade industries experienced their lowest fatalities rates since 2003. In other declines:

  • Contact with objects and equipment fell by 9 percent (695 fatalities).
  • Caught in running equipment or machinery declined by 26 percent (76 fatalities).
  • Crane-related incidents fell to the lowest level ever recorded in the CFOI (33 fatalities).
Vulnerable Populations

Unintentional overdoses due to non-medical use of drugs or alcohol, homicides and suicides in the workplace are counted as work-related fatalities. This was the fifth consecutive year in which overdose deaths increased by 25 percent, an indicator of the nation’s persistent opioid epidemic. Homicides and suicides decreased by 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively, compared to 2016.

By occupation, fishing and logging workers had the highest rates of fatal injury in 2017. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers suffered the most fatalities recorded in their subgroup since 2003.

Grounds maintenance workers (including first-line supervisors) incurred 244 fatalities in 2017, the second-highest total since 2003. A total of 36 deaths were due to falls from trees; 35 were caused by being struck by a falling tree or branch.

There were 258 fatalities among farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers in 2017, with the majority of deaths occurring among farmers over 65 years old and 103 deaths involving use of a tractor.

Fifteen percent of fatally-injured workers in 2017 were 65 or older – a series high that reflects the number of baby-boomers who are still working.

Refer to these tables for additional data: